Mobile apps help students stay financially afloat

Irina Kouchnir

For many students, college means lessons in money management. With tight deadlines and frequent exams, most students have less time to engage in paid work and more financial stress.

Shimoy Hall, 25, is a current Humber student who says she doesn’t work during the school year and relies on her savings.

“I worked as much as I could during the summer and saved some money,” said Hall. “Then I worked again full-time over the Christmas break and saved more money.”

Hall’s story is one many students are familiar with.

Malcolm Sato, 26, studies Electrical Engineering and also works part-time for Humber IT support.

“I earn just enough to cover my expenses but I don’t have any extra money left over after all bills are paid,” Malcolm said.

Living off previously accumulated savings seems to be what many students are doing. However, this comes at the expense of inflexible living and micromanaging every dollar.

As 26-year-old 3D Modeling and Visual Effects student Amanda Heppner heads into her final semester, she says she’s trying to pay more attention to her finances.

“I am not working this semester. I worked during the first semester as a driver on film sets one to two days per week. Otherwise, I’m using my savings to get through school. I budget myself and keep track of receipts.”

But choosing traditional employment or no employment at all doesn’t have to be a student’s only option anymore. With the digital economy offering profitable alternatives students can now work flexible hours and earn cash without being at the mercy or a hiring manager.

These advances are changing the reliance on traditional jobs and opening up the possibility for greater income and flexible working hours.

Apps such as Uber, Etsy, and Airbnb are available to anyone with a smartphone and Internet connection, coming at no cost to the user.

“On average, I would earn $1500-$2000 per month renting my living room to travellers on Airbnb,” said University of Toronto graduate Javier Ortega.

While in school, Ortega, 26, paid rent and other bills by using the smart phone app for the lodging service, which allows user to rent their homes to anyone from any part of the world.

“I was able to pay my bills and still had extra money left over,” he explained. He calls it his “hustle.”

“It’s a good way to make money because you don’t have to invest too much time. You’re just using something you already have which is your place. I invested approximately 30 minutes each day to ensure my guest had clean sheets,” he said.

Uber is another company that operates primarily from an app and has become appealing to many students. Its appeal is understandable – drivers earn money by signing on to the app when their schedule permits. The more they drive, the more they earn and when they don’t want to work any more they simply sign off.

Muhammad Shan, a 22-year-old business management student and Uber X driver, began working for Uber two years ago and says driving for the transport firm has been a great experience because he’s been able to “ make his own schedule and work short hours”.

Shan usually only works 10 hours per week because of classes and likes to sign in on his way home from class.

“When I was busy with school, I didn’t work and when I had free time I would sign-on. I liked that I didn’t have to negotiate hours and had control over my time and money,” he said.

According to the Uber website, an “average driver makes $23/hour.”

In addition to Uber and Airbnb, students have the option to make extra money with other apps such as Etsy, Fiverr and TaskRabbit.

According to peers.org, the average earnings on TaskRabbit is $48.00/hour. The app works by matching freelance workers who complete different tasks for people around their community. These tasks can include anything from assembling furniture, painting, yard work, or running errands.

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